You can avoid persistent knee pain during running by adopting a forefoot strike and most importantly, shortening your stride length.
Common running injuries, such as inner knee pain after running, can arise from running with a stride length that is too long. Inversely, adopting a shorter stride during running was found to dampen impact on the knee joint.
Avoid Persistent Knee Pain During Running
Boyer and Derrick (2015) demonstrated that forefoot running prevents knee pain if you shorten your stride length. The researchers found that peak IT band strain, internal knee rotation angles and peak hip adduction were similar between heel strike runners and forefoot runners, but were reduced when stride length was shortened, suggesting that the overall effect of forefoot running –improvements in injury and pain– stems from shortening your stride length!
So how come a shortened stride length reduces stress at the knee?
The researchers discovered that a shortened stride length influenced a wider step width regardless of foot strike! The researchers reasoned that a shorter stride naturally accompanies a wider step width because a shortened stride requires taking quicker steps, resulting in less time to bring the feet through and around the stance limbs.
- A wider step width is important because it is linked to reduced IT band stain, joint moments and frontal plane motion (Brindle et al. 2014; Meardon et al. 2012; Meardon et al. 2009).
This study demonstrates that it doesn’t matter if you are landing forefooted; to ensure injury-free running, you must shorten your stride. This is the number one problem for heel strike runners who switch to forefoot running.
Heel strike runners are notorious for having a significantly longer stride than habitual forefoot runners. When they switch to forefoot running, they inadvertently fail to shorten their stride and end up with an injury.
How well you avoid injury depends on your ability to integrate all the correct mechanical facets of forefoot running —forward lean, knee flexion and a shortened stride. Thus, don’t neglect other mechanical aspects important in forefoot running –shortening your stride! A shorter stride accounts for mostly why habitual forefoot and barefoot runners dodge injury and can bail you out of getting injured, too.
More From Run Forefoot:
Forefoot Running and Performance – Learn how forefoot running boosts performance better than heel strike running.
Running Barefoot On Soft Surfaces – Understand how softer surfaces might make it challenging to maintain your forefoot strike.
Shoes for Forefoot Running – Here I have selected the BEST shoes I feel will help any runner land on their forefoot with greater ease.
Boyer ER and Derrick TR. Select injury-related variables are affected by stride length and foot strike during running. Amer J Sports Med, 2015; doi:10.1177/0363546515592837
Brindle RA, Milner CE, Zhang S, Fitzhugh EC. Changing step width alters lower extremity biomechanics during running. Gait Posture. 2014;39(1):124-128.
Meardon SA, Campbell S, Derrick TR. Step width alters iliotibial band strain during running. Sports Biomech. 2012;11(4):464-472.
Meardon SA, Derrick TR. Crossover and free moment during running. Paper presented at: North American Congress on Biomechanics Meeting; August 5-9, 2008; Ann Arbor, MI. http://www.asbweb.org/conferences/2008/abstracts/538.pdf.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.